Be Proactive About Heat-Related Illness This Summer
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, J.D., Founder
In very tragic news, it was recently discovered that former NFL running back Marion Barber III died of heat stroke. He was just 38-years-old. On June 1, he was reportedly found dead in his apartment in Dallas. The death appears to be accidental. He was working out in “sauna-like” conditions.
“According to the autopsy report, one of the bathtub faucets in Barber's apartment was running when officers arrived, and the unit's thermostat was set to 91 degrees with the heat set to ‘on.’ Officers also found exercise equipment in the unit,” reports USA TODAY.
This report also mentions that the coroner wrote in his report that, "Mr. Barber was known to exercise in sauna-like conditions." Barber also had “a history of health problems and mental health concerns,” according to his family.
Working out or even just working in extreme conditions can be very dangerous. Back in 2019, I blogged about the death due to heat stroke of Mitch Petrus. He was another former NFL player and was only 32-years-old at the time. Petrus was working outside at his family’s towing business shop in Arkansas, where the temperature reached 92 degrees with a heat index of 103 degrees.
I think many of us tend to think that the elderly are the ones at most risk for heat stroke, but as you can see, these two athletes were quite young.
In addition to these two very sad stories, a 24-year-old archaeologist recently died while on the job. The cause of death is believed to be heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that even though heat-related deaths are preventable, each year in the U.S. about 658 people die due to extreme heat. And, of course, we can’t ignore the absolutely heartbreaking news stories of children being left in excruciatingly hot cars and dying of heat stroke.
“Heat-related illness, also called hyperthermia, is a condition resulting from exposure to extreme heat where the body becomes unable to properly cool, resulting in a rapid rise in body temperature,” according to the CDC.
“The evaporation of sweat is the normal way to remove body heat, but, when the humidity is high, sweat does not evaporate as quickly. This, in turn, prevents the body from releasing heat quickly.”
Heat exhaustion may progress to heat stroke if the person affected is not treated. What is also very scary about heat exhaustion is that it can trigger preexisting conditions such as respiratory illness and heart disease. This is very concerning considering millions of Americans currently have heart disease.
“Very high body temperatures can damage the brain or other vital organs. In severe cases, the problem can progress to multiple organ system failure and death,” (CDC). And, of course, we all know how dangerous it is to be severely dehydrated. Water is one of the six basic nutrients you need to live. The others are protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals.
But water is the only nutrient where absence will cause death within days. And with heat-related illness, along with losing water you also lose extremely important electrolytes (minerals such as sodium) that are key in keeping your body functioning properly.We can be proactive.
The good news is, as the CDC mentioned, heat-related illness deaths are preventable. We can be proactive.
First, I recommend always listening to your body. Sometimes when people work or work out in extreme conditions, they push themselves beyond what they should. The risk is not worth it. It does not matter how athletic you are or how young you are. We are not made to withstand extremely hot temperatures while performing very rigorous activity. If you have children in your household, triple check to make sure they have all exited the car. If you are someone who practices Bikram yoga (also called hot yoga), I highly recommend making sure you have clearance from your doctor to do so. Keep plenty of water on hand, and if your child participates in outdoor sports take the necessary precautions.
Read this pH Labs blog to learn more about heat-related illness and how you can be proactive. Have a safe and cool summer!
Enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses, and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products, and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.